Free UCS Outline Fonts

Summary: This project aims to provide a set of free outline (PostScript Type0, TrueType, OpenType...) fonts covering the ISO 10646/Unicode UCS (Universal Character Set).

Why do we need free outline UCS fonts?

A large number of free software users switched from free X11 bitmapped fonts to proprietary Microsoft Truetype fonts, as a) they used to be freely downloaded from Microsoft Typography page, b) they contain a more or less decent subset of the ISO 10646 UCS (Universal Character Set), c) they are high-quality, well hinted scalable Truetype fonts, and d) Freetype, a free high-quality Truetype font renderer is available and has been integrated into the latest release of XFree86, the free X11 server.

Building a dependence on non-free software, even a niche one like fonts, is dangerous. Microsoft Truetype core fonts were never free, they were just costless. Citing the TrueType core fonts for the Web FAQ: You may only redistribute the fonts in their original form (.exe or .sit.hqx) and with their original file name from your Web site or intranet site. You must not supply the fonts, or any derivative fonts based on them, in any form that adds value to commercial products, such as CD-ROM or disk based multimedia programs, application software or utilities. As of August 2002, however, the fonts are not anymore available on the Web, which makes the situation clearer.

Don't there exist any free high-quality outline fonts? Yes, they do. URW++, a German digital typefoundry, released their own version of the 35 Postscript Type 1 core fonts under GPL as their donation to the Ghostscript project. The Wadalab Kanji comittee has produced Type 1 font files with thousands of filigree Japanese glyphs. Yannis Haralambous has drawn beautiful glyphs for the Omega typesetting system. And so on. Scattered around the internet there are numerous other free resources for other national scripts, many of them aiming to be a suitable match for Latin fonts like Times or Helvetica.

What do we plan to achieve, and how?

Our aim is to collect available resources, fill in the missing pieces, and provide a set of free high-quality outline (OpenType, Truetype, Type 0) UCS fonts, released under GNU GPL.

Free UCS outline fonts will cover the following character sets

Free font utilities

A couple of excellent font utilities has been developed lately:

Design issues

Which font shapes should be made? As historical style terms like Renaissance or Baroque letterforms cannot be applied beyond Latin/Cyrillic/Greek scripts to any greater extent than Kufi or Nashki can be applied beyond Arabic script, a smaller subset of styles will be made: one monospaced - FreeMono and two proportional (one with uniform stroke - FreeSans - and one with modulated - FreeSerif) will be made at the start.

These minimal style requirements allow the typefaces to preserve the same characteristic spirit regardless of the scripts, so that the font will be a harmonic unity. Some design notes on individual typefaces are available.

In the beginning, however, we don't believe that Truetype hinting will be good enough to compete with neither the hand-crafted bitmapped fonts at small sizes, nor with commercial TrueType fonts. A companion program for modifying the TrueType font tables, TtfMod, is in the works, though. For applications like xterm, users are referred to the existing UCS bitmap fonts.

Downloading fonts

Tar archives, compressed with gzip, are available on the Savannah download area

There you will find several archive files, depending on the format of fonts. A -source- package contains font files with a .sfd (Spline Font Database) suffix. This is PfaEdit's native format. Please use these if you plan to modify the font files. PfaEdit can export these to mostly any existing font file format.

TrueType fonts for immediate consumption are in the -ttf- tag. Font files have the .ttf (TrueType Font) suffix. You can use them directly, e.g. with the X font server.

OpenType fonts are in the -otf- tag. Font files have the .otf (OpenType Font) suffix.

Finally, there is a -sample- package. The files with .ps (PostScript) suffix are not font files at all - they are merely PostScript files with glyph tables, which can be used for overview, which glyphs are contained in which font file.

You may have noticed the lack of PostScript Type 1 (.pfa/.pfb) font files. Type 1 format does not support large (> 256) encoding vectors, so they can not be used with ISO 10646 encoding. If your printer supports it, you can use Type 0 format, though. Please use PfaEdit for conversion to Type 0.

Debian GNU/Linux

Users of Debian GNU/Linux system can download a .deb package from the Debian Web site.

NetBSD pkgsrc

Users of the pkgsrc package system or NetBSD can use pkgsrc/fonts/freefont-ttf. The package webpage is at the NetBSD site.


Users of FreeBSD system can download a FreeBSD package from the FreeBSD ports Web site.

Primo┼ż Peterlin,, $Date: 2006/01/12 10:06:11 $

Free UCS outline fonts: